Qualcomm Institute Joins World Cultural Leaders at Digital Heritage International Congress

San Diego, Calif., Dec. 13, 2013 — A half dozen researchers from UC San Diego’s Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) were invited to present their work recently at what was billed as the largest scientific event on digital heritage ever hosted: Digital Heritage International Congress 2013.

The event was held in Marseille, France from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 and was organized under the patronage of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It featured hundreds of researchers, educators, scientists, industry professionals and policy makers from around the world. The purpose of the Congress was to debate, discuss and present state-of-the-art digital technology for the protection, documentation and understanding of humanity’s shared heritage. 

David, Vid, John, Dave, Ashley
CISA3 researchers David Vanoni, Vid Petrovic, John Mangan, David Srour and Ashley Richter stand atop Fort St. John, with the Marseille skyline behind them.  

“Events like this, as well as recent European policy development and budget allocation advocating for cultural heritage preservation, are indicative of the huge value Europe places on scientific development to study the past,” said CISA3 Assistant Director Alexandra Hubenko. “It is essential for CISA3, as an American leader in developing technology for cultural heritage diagnostics, to collaborate on these established, international levels and establish connections and communication to construct the diagnostic systems of the future. We are working to strengthen the dialogue between these groups and ours so we can foster and expand the interdisciplinary collaborative research efforts we have here at UCSD, which are rapidly transforming the way scientists can engage with and preserve the past.”

The largest contingent of researchers at the workshop from the University of California system were those representing CISA3 and its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training Program (IGERT-TEECH), which is based at UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute (a division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology). CISA3 has long been a U.S. leader in cultural heritage research, and its projects in Europe and the Middle East represent some of the most cutting-edge archaeological and art diagnostics research in the world. During the event’s opening ceremony, French Minister of Culture and Communication Pascal Lievaux said he was impressed with the research he had seen at UC San Diego’s cultural heritage and visualization labs, which he visited in October.  

Gian Mario Maggio
The Villa Mediterranean, where the Digital Heritage International Congress was held. 

“It is marvelous to see this level of much needed interdisciplinary convergence between science and technology related fields and the humanities,” said Ashley Richter, an archaeological anthropology Ph.D. student at UC San Diego who gave a talk on “Digital Archaeological Landscapes and Replicated Artifacts: Questions of Analytical and Phenomenological Authenticity and Ethical Policies in CyberArchaeology.” 

“CISA3 has been one of the few bastions of this kind of thing for a while now,” Richter continued. “It is wonderful to be a part of CISA3 and to represent one of the longest established groups that has been fighting for and working towards futuristic interfaces for the study of the past. Cultural heritage diagnostics are one of the most exciting areas of engineering development and education drivers that can cross the line from STEM  to STEAM  projects on a global level and open dialogue between academia, industry, and government in unprecedented ways.

Richter’s presentation discussed the ethical, sociological and psychological approaches to implementing digital systems and open access to cultural heritage information. Richter noted that retaining the authenticity of spaces and objects that are digitally replicated is paramount and discussed technologies that are increasingly being used to retain that authenticity, such as laser scanning, structure from motion, augmented reality and 3D printing. Richter also noted the need for rapid international legislation and standard systems to address global efforts to acquire, share and utilize emerging cultural heritage data sets.

In addition to Richter, other participants from CISA3 included:

The presented papers also illuminated the highly interdisciplinary CISA3 research team and collaborative nature of the work being conducted. Co-authors included Qi's Thomas E. Levy, Thomas DeFanti, Jurgen Schulze, Steven M. Parish,  Albert Yu-Min Lin, Aliya Hoff and James Darling. 

Neil Smith, an archaeologist affiliated with CISA3, also presented "ArtifactVis2: Managing real-time archaeological data in immersive 3D environments” which demonstrates the integration of archaeological data in an immersive visualization environment.  Smith formerly headed the CISA3 Cyberarchaeology Lab in Jordan and is now a research scientist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a position that resulted from QI’s ongoing collaboration with KAUST.

In addition to their presentations, the group from CISA3 also participated in a variety of workshops including the UNESCO Memory of the World Digital Roadmap and the Museums & Technology workshops. CSE student David Vanoni, who works on augmented reality techniques for cultural heritage diagnostic dissemination for researchers and the museum-going public alike, said that “it is a huge step forward for the engineering and heritage groups to begin meeting on wider levels like this."

"It's crucial that we have these dialogues about building effective technologies that actually addresses the needs of its analysis-driven professional users —the art historians, the architects, and the archaeologists — while still effectively engaging the public and making this information something they can access and value as part of the wider understanding of culture.”

Added Petrovic: “Hopefully, the first digital heritage conference will herald a profound paradigm shift in the engagement between cultural heritage authorities, practitioners and technological development. Though it, in essence, represented case-study steps towards larger systems, the recent recognition of value in coalescing these concepts and creating collaborative, interdisciplinary environments which work towards uniformed systems is a very important one towards the future of cultural heritage.

“Given that CISA3 was founded to work towards these concepts," Petrovic continued, "it is exciting to see this idea taking off on a global scale and even more so that CISA3  is leading the movement towards uniting science, engineering, technology and cultural heritage.” 

The Digital Heritage International Congress 2013 provided a unique venue for the CISA3 IGERT team to share research findings advancing science and engineering for cultural heritage diagnostics and preservation, while further catalyzing international research collaborations, said CISA3 Director and Calit2 Professor for Visualization and Virtual Reality, Falko Kuester.

"The congress created a fitting finale to an extensive 2013 field season that had team members traveling to and working in nearly a dozen countries," added Kuester, who is also Principal Investigator on UCSD’s National Science Foundation (NSF) IGERT graduate training grant in cultural heritage diagnostics. For more on the 2013 field season, see Dispatches from the Field: Interdisciplinary Team Deployed Near Tip of Italy's Boot.

The Digital Heritage International Congress was organized by CNRS (The french National Center for Scientific Research) on behalf of the MAP Laboratory, in collaboration with local research institutions Provence (Aix-Marseille University, Arts et Métiers ParisTech, CICRP, School of Architecture and INRIA). 

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